The effect of discharge planning on length of stay and readmission rates of older adults in acute hospitals: A systematic review and meta-analysis of systematic reviews

Publication Name

Journal of Nursing Management


Aim: To examine the effectiveness of discharge planning on length of stay and readmission rates among older adults in acute hospitals. Background: Discharge planning takes place in all acute hospital settings in many forms. However, it is unclear how it contributes to reducing patient length of stay in hospital and readmission rates. Methods: Seven systematic reviews were identified and examined. All of the systematic reviews explored the impact of discharge planning on length of stay and readmission rates. Results: A limited meta-analysis of the results in relation to length of stay indicates positive finding for discharge planning as an intervention (MD = −0.71(95% CI −1.05,−0.37; p =.0001)). However, further analysis of the broader findings in relation to length of stay indicates inconclusive or mixed results. In relation to readmission rates both meta-analysis and narrative analysis point to a reduced risk for older people where discharge planning has taken place (RR = 0.78 (95% CI: 0.72, 0.84; p =.00001)). The ability to synthesize results however is severely hampered by the diversity of approaches to research in this area. Implications for Nursing Management: It is unclear what impact discharge planning has on length of stay of older people. Indeed, while nurse mangers will be interested in gauging this impact on throughput and patient flow, it is questionable if length of stay is the correct outcome to measure when studying discharge planning as good discharge planning may increase length of stay. Readmission rates may be a more appropriate outcome measure but standardization of approach needs to be considered in this regard. This would assist nurse managers in assessing the impact of discharge planning processes.

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